The Chronicle of Philanthrop, a US-based nonprofit organization, has just published a study suggesting that the more religious a society is, the more generous it is. The study examined charitable tax deductions from 2008, the most recent year information is available for, and broke those down the fifty states of the US. The findings seem to indicate that the highest charitable contributions were made by those in the southern states known as the Christian Bible belt and in Utah, which has a large Mormon population.
It wasn’t clear to me from what I could find online if the study looked at particular religious groups, including Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh donors.
While the study could to prove that conservative Republicans are more generous than liberal Democrats, the authors caution that philanthropy can be politically as well as religiously based.
The study quotes a professor of political science from Boston College as saying that people in less religious states “view the tax money they’re paying not as something that’s forced upon them, but as a recognition that they belong with everyone else, that they’re citizens in the common good. … I think people here believe that when they pay their taxes, they’re being altruistic.”
>Other findings of the study:
— People who earn $200,000 per year give a greater percentage to charity when they live in ZIP codes with fewer people who are as wealthy as they are.
— People who earn between $50,000 and $75,000 annually give a higher percentage of their income to charity (7.6 percent) than those who make $100,000 or more (4.2 percent).
A depressing thought to emerge from the study is that as poverty increases and givernment safety nets erode, societies will be increasingly dependent on philanthropy.
“There’s a storm coming,” says Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and an expert on the nation’s cities. “Which places are prepared?”
Mr. Katz says local governments should be thinking hard about how to encourage giving because “we don’t have the welfare programs that we have had in the past. The need for individual giving is greater than it has been in modern memory.”